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Florilegium, Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà - a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights - is a walking compendium of emotions. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Beidermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.

Christoph Prégardien, Schubert, Wigmore Hall London

Another highlight of the Wigmore Hall complete Schubert Song series - Christoph Prégardien and Christoph Schnackertz. The core Wigmore Hall Lieder audience were out in force. These days, though, there are young people among the regulars : a sign that appreciation of Lieder excellence is most certainly alive and well at the Wigmore Hall. .

The Magic Flute in San Francisco

How did it go? Reactions of my neighbors varied. Some left at the intermission, others remarked that they thought the singing was good.



Stefania Dovhan as Adina and Meredith Lustig as Giannetta [Photo by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera]
04 Apr 2011

L’Elisir d’Amore

Donizetti described to his father the premiere cast of L’Elisir in terms of lukewarm praise—the tenor only “passable” the soprano’s voice “pretty” and the bass “a little hammy.”

L’Elisir d’Amore

Adina: Stefania Dovhan; Giannetta: Meredith Lustig; Nemorino: David Lomeli; Belcore: José Adán Pérez; Dulcamara: Marco Nisticò. Brad Cohen, Conductor. Jonathan Miller, Production Designer. Isabella Bywater, Set/Costume Designer. New York City Opera, March 26, 2011.

Above: Stefania Dovhan as Adina and Meredith Lustig as Giannetta

All photos by Carol Rosegg courtesy of New York City Opera


(Doubtful, though, is Emilia Branca’s tale that Donizetti complained of a Dulcamara with a “voice like a goat.”) Notwithstanding the shortcomings of the singers, the score won the day.

Could it have been otherwise? L’Elisir is so ingenious, so bubbly, so amusing—and at the same time so moving and heartfelt—that it proved a huge and instantaneous success. It charged confidently into the international repertory and never lost steam. Nearly two centuries later, it’s still almost impossible to botch L’Elisir beyond redemption. And so it is with New York City Opera’s production: carried by Donizetti’s brilliant music, Romani’s witty and singable verses, an attractive production, and a much more than “passable” tenor, the performance I attended delighted even as it disappointed.

To a modern audience, the American Southwest during the 1950s seems a remote and idyllic time, and Jonathan Miller’s 2006 production therefore neatly fit the spirit of the piece; every detail was skillfully thought out and Isabella Bywater’s sets and costumes were a delight. The locus is Adina’s Diner, the gathering place of choice for a desert community near a military base. Dulcamara rolls up to the gas pumps in a vintage hotrod, sporting spectator shoes; Nemorino wears mechanics togs; the chorus consists of greasers, fry cooks, soldiers and women in poodle-skirts and cat-eyed glasses. Adina is a sort of Marilyn Monroe, Giannetta a less prominent Maureen O’Hara. Belcore struts around in a Marine uniform and indulges in Elvis-like pelvic gyrations.

The direction of this revival left much to be desired, and seemed motivated more by a desire for cheap laughs than by an understanding and appreciation of the text. As Donizetti’s biographer William Ashbrook observed, the most groundbreaking feature of L’Elisir is that it is not mere slapstick, and its lieto fine occurs because Adina realizes Nemorino’s true goodness and sincerity; L’Elisir succeeds because there is real emotional depth here.

With all this in mind, let it be admitted that Nemorino is not the sharpest knife in the drawer; but for Romani he is a gullible, uneducated country lad with a big heart. In the Miller production he is painted as borderline developmentally disabled. He claps gleefully, jogs in place, bats imaginary balls and jumps up and down as if he were five years old, much of the time wearing a dopey expression. In line with disturbing current trends, excessive stage action often interferes with some of the most important musical and dramatic moments. During Adina’s solo in “Chiedi all’aura lusinghiera,” Nemorino unwittingly spills salt, tossing handfuls around as Adina tries frantically to clean it up. During her duet with Dulcamara (dramatically the turning point of the opera), Adina reaches so deeply into his pocket that his expression plainly tells us where her hand has wandered. In the women’s chorus that begins Act II, a toilet flushes as they stand in line waiting for the restroom, provoking a few nervous scatological giggles; later Nemorino, sickened by his excessive consumption of the “elixir,” runs to the same bathroom to be sick.

Elixir0040.pngStefania Dovhan as Adina and David Lomelí as Nemorino

This is all a shame, but even this cloud of directorial dust, tenor David Lomeli was able to show Nemorino’s passionate nature, his innocence and his vulnerability. Indeed, only his artistry raised the afternoon out of vocal mediocrity. Lomeli never lost sight of what makes Nemorino such a sympathetic character, even as he acted the fool. He sang a wistful “Quanto e bella,” and his impassioned solo passage, “Adina, credimi,” in the first act finale tugged at the heartstrings. An achingly tender, beautifully shaped “Una furtiva lagrima” earned him the loudest cheers of the evening. Lomeli has a lovely, light voice with varying colors and a good sense of how to use dynamic shading; there is a beautiful, genuine Italianate squillo there too. He warmed up quickly after a slightly underpowered start, and hit his stride with full confidence by the time of his duet with Dulcamara.

As Adina, Stefania Dovhan was less than ideal casting. She is physically very attractive, and the voice is intermittently beautiful and expressive, but on the whole it is too harsh and inflexible for the role. Her voice doesn’t have much color; her acuti, while on pitch, were rather grating, and she does not handle coloratura cleanly. Though there were isolated moments of real feeling, for the most part it was a flat, rather riskless portrayal; the shift from fickle and vindictive vixen to loving fiancée was a bit too abrupt and not very convincing.

Elixir0043.pngStefania Dovhan as Adina and Marco Nisticò as Dulcamara

As for José Adán Pérez’s Belcore and Marco Nisticò’s Dulcamara, all their comic silent-movie face-pulling and pelvic thrusts couldn’t hide the fact that they sounded vocally undernourished and fudged the coloratura. In his duet with Lomeli, Nisticò’s vocal line drowned beneath his partner’s. Brad Cohen conducted a brisk if at times somewhat hurried performance. The orchestra sounded marvelous but for one horn mishap. The chorus was well-rehearsed and in fine form.

Daniel Foley

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